Travels along the Mekong
First published 5th August, 2006
Ben Walker's travel blog, Travels along the Mekong followed his trip through Thailand and Laos in November and December 2005. Part blog, part travel guide, part photo album, the blog stands out for its really useful trip-planning information and some terrific photos. Travelfish sat down over a couple of virtual glasses of wine to find out what makes Ben blog.
How did you get into blogging?
I have always kept some sort of travel journal/diary/record when on longer trips -- in some sort of notebook, the back of cigarette packets or scraps of paper. You tend to forget a lot of what you experience when traveling and, like photographs, scribblings bring back a plethora of other memories. Combining a written record of your journey with the added ability of uploading relevant photographs seemed like a good idea. And it would save me scrabbling around in overfull drawers for journals and random packets of photos. I also just wanted to have a go.
How long have you been blogging?
Since 28th August 2005 the date of first entry on the "Travels along the Mekong" site
Why do you blog.
Initially, I was traveling on my own. I always bring back loads of postcards, addressed and stamped. Phone calls are inconvenient with a seven-hour time difference and in the same time you can add an entry that is accessible to anyone who is interested.
Why did you choose to use Blogger? and would you use it again?
I looked at many providers. I wanted something that was simple and would chronologically order entries and enable photo uploads. I wanted something that wasn't intrusive without loads of advertising and add-ons. I wanted friends and family to log on if they were interested rather than having to register or be bombarded with e-mails. Yes I'd use it again.
You can sign up for a blogger account (it is free) here.
How do you blog?
I only used Internet cafes, a compact digital camera and an I-pod with photo connector. I travel light and wouldn't want to lug a laptop around.
How much time during your trip would you guess you spent blogging? An hour a day?
About 30 minutes. I usually had breakfast and went to the nearest internet cafe. I'm an early riser so I'm usually out and about 08:30 -- I'd read and send some e-mails and then catalogue the last day's thoughts. I would say I did this three days out of four. When I'd missed a day or two I'd need a little longer, maybe an hour, to catch up.
Many travel blogs tend to concentrate on what the blogger gets up to during their travels -- Travels along the Mekong certainly does that, but you also spend a lot of time linking off to secondary sources -- guesthouse pages, airline websites and of course loads of links to Travelfish -- why did you choose to do that?
By accident really. I often read up on where I am going before I go. I used to just buy the relevant Rough Guide or Lonely Planet guide, however over the last few years I have cottoned on to the fact that online guides such as Travelfish and Tales of Asia, to name but two, are more up-to-date than printed media. I started to use the blog as a space to record and link to those resources and it developed into a trip planning area where I could keep everything in one place, like interesting articles I came across about Laos. I must say that this coincided with a particularly slack period at work (don't tell the boss!) I also put the site address in my Lonely Planet Thorntree signature line. I got a lot of positive response (as well as the usual "nobody's interested in your bloody blog comments"). I was really just enjoying researching.
Were you surprised that some readers tried to bring school-yard bullying to your blog?
Not really. You will always get flamed whether it be on a message board or via a blog. I don't have to agree with people nor do they have to agree with me. Ces't la vie.
Sometimes your blog reads more like a travel resource than a blog -- your "What to pack list" is an excellent example (your pack must be huge by the way), but there's also bus timetables and other "howto" information in there. Was it intentional or accidental that the blog developed into such a resource?
I actually used the information in the blog when I got to Thailand and Laos, mainly to remind me of places that seemed good to eat or sleep. Ben Guesthouse in Chiang Rai was a good example. Five knackered people off a bus, fifty touts, look at blog, tuk tuk to guesthouse -- everyone happy.
Are there any online resources other than Travelfish and Tales Of Asia that spring to mind?
Man in Seat Sixty One. 2Bangkok (I don't know why I like it). The usual Air Asia, Nok Air and State Railways of Thailand especially the seat availability page (when it works!), and the Transport Company for buses in Thailand.
You've got a few quotes in there from the Lonely Planet Thorntree, but there's less from the people that you met during your travels. Do you think that surfing the web and blogging are slowly replacing the traveller's cafes and guesthouse foyers as a means for both gathering information and meeting people?
Yes and No. Looking back at it, you sometimes arrive somewhere and go with the flow, can't be bothered with planning and just look for a guesthouse with the people you met on the bus or a place that was recommended by someone you met the day before. In Vang Vieng nobody had any idea where to stay but didn't want to stay on Pizza Street or the Island. Riverside Bungalows, which I had forgotten about, suited everyone and was one of the best places I stayed.
Did you get more information for the planning of your trip from on-or offline sources?
Initially, for general ideas, through books. It was refined with online resources.
One of the things that stands out on your blog are the photos -- you've got some great pictures there -- how important would you say images are to a good travel blog?
"A picture is worth a thousand words". You can write hundreds of column centimeters about the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai but a picture will change that impression nine times out of ten. It's like watching a film after reading the book, nobody ever says "That's just how I imagined it"
While rich in images, you seem to boycott maps -- a common feature on many travel blogs -- why?
I thought about it and researched it. Most online maps I found of SEA were too small or large scale. You could plot your course from say Bangkok to Vientiane or at the other end of the scale narrow it down to postcode/zip locations. There wasn't much in between.
How important would you say blogging is to you when you're on the road? Would you decide not to go somewhere if you wouldn't be able to use the internet there?
At the end of the day it's a useful resource if it helps you with your memories, you enjoy doing it and it's taken at face value. I have had more positive comments than bad. The only negative is that you do stick your head above the parapet, which makes you a target for others. It's easy to criticise if you have nothing to say. End of rant.
Internet access is not important. It's just everywhere!
Thanks again to Ben Walker for taking the time to answer a few questions for us and we look forward to reading about his Sabah and Sarawak trip later in 2006.
Have something to say about this story? Leave your two cents on the Travelfish messageboard.
Blogeller is a series of interviews with bloggers that travel (or is that travellers that blog) -- lets just call them blogellers ;-) If you have a blog related to a trip in Southeast Asia and time for a few virtual glasses of wine, please add your blog address to this thread on the Travelfish messageboard and we'll check it out.
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (16)
- All stories
- Angkor Hospital For Children
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Free the Bears Laos
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- MyME Yangon
- Soi Dog Foundation
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (9)
- Cambodia (23)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Kampot or Kep?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (14)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- Pasola, Sumba
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (18)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Luang Prabang for kids
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- What to buy in Luang Prabang, Laos
- Malaysia (10)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (80)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Are Thailand’s cheap guesthouses disappearing?
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok craft villages
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Great Thai food blogs
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao Noi or Ko Yao Yai?
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Full Moon Party
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- The road to Sangkhom
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What are the alternatives to Bangkok?
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (33)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Great Hanoi cafes to chill out in
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Ha Long Bay or Sapa?
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (21)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (16)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- Ten thoughts on ten years with Travelfish
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (18)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Asok
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Siam
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.